Happy New Year 2013!


Here we are again, at the end of another year, at the door of a new one.

Reviewing the goals and resolutions I set last January, I’m glad to discover that I met many of them. There’s no doubt though that 2012 was all about Australia.

In January, this blog was born. I began reading other blogs by Aussies and American expats down under, and I began to seriously put together an itinerary, as well as consider what Australian animals could kill me, how to use my iPhone in Oz, and start preparing my mom tech-wise for my big adventure.

In February, it finally happened. After a year of planning, I touched ground in Australia.

March was a big month of travel. We visited TasmaniaDaylesford, and local attractions such as Federation Square and the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Great Ocean Road

April was an amazing month of new adventures as well and an emotional roller-coaster as my trip began coming to a close. We rode the Puffing Billy Railway, strolled through the serene William Ricketts Sanctuary, attended my first footy game, visited Luna Park, and drove along the Great Ocean Road, the post on which got Fresh Pressed.

In May, I returned to the U.S., but I didn’t want to. In fact, I was very sad to return. I spent the next month thinking about the things I love and hate about Australia as well as exploring my identity as an Cuban-American immigrant and expat.

By June, I’d decided that, despite the great earthquake, life with Theo in Melbourne was for me and I began to think about how to move abroad and spend as much time as possible with my family while I could.

In July, I went to Disney World with my family. Sadly, the U.S. experienced a mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of 12 people and 58 injured. I was glad that I would soon be getting away from gun violence and sad that my country can’t work this problem out.

In late August, I returned to Australia. Much of that month was spent on preparations – how to stay connected with family and friends, what to wear on a long flight, what to bring in my carry-on, and how to entertain myself on 25-hour journey.

September was a month of settling in and trying to figure out how to juggle life in Australia with keeping up with America.

HalloweenIt happened in October that I first really experienced culture shock: no Halloween.

November was also a difficult month. There was no Thanksgiving, as this is an American holiday, my birthday was completely uneventful, and I wasn’t feeling any Christmas spirit. This led me to conclude that Australians don’t really care about life celebrations in the same way Americans do, a sentiment that my Aussie readers disagree with and that resonates with many of my American expat readers. New Year’s is nothing special either, by the way.

December was all about shopping for Christmas. Despite the lack of Christmas spirit all around me, I enjoyed visiting several markets and have become inspired by all the great independent design in Melbourne. Sadly, back in America, there was another mass shooting. It was in a grade school this time and resulted in the deaths of 20 small children and some school staff.

I’m so happy this blog has done well. I received my annual report from WordPress and was pleasantly surprised to discover that this blog had 23,000 views in 2012.

I hope 2013 will be as exciting as this year was. There are things I’m looking forward to.

  • Four more years of Barack Obama. Hopefully, we’ll see some solid, lasting, positive change in the U.S.
  • Great entertainment. The release of The Great Gatsby and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, the conclusion of season three of The Walking Dead, and another season of Game of Thrones.
  • Returning to the U.S. for a visit. It will be lovely to spend time with my family.
  • New discoveries throughout Australia. Sydney, Uluru, Kangaroo Island, Broome – there’s much to see in beautiful Australia. There’s plenty to discover in the nooks of crannies of Melbourne as well.

And I have some resolutions.

  • Read more and read good books. I only read about seven books this year. This year I may go into a classics frenzy and begin 2013 with Hemingway. I’d even love to join a book club.
  • Develop  my professional skills. In 2012, I attended four workshops in blogging, marketing, and community management. I feel good about those and would like to do more in 2013.
  • Set some blogging goals. Increase my readership? Increase my guest blogging? Get Fresh Pressed again? I’ll have to give this one more thought.
  • Develop my arts and crafts skills. Melbourne has amazing and inspiring local design. Theo and his sisters are among the very talented. I joined a few arts and crafts group and I’m looking forward to learning and doing more.
  • Carve out a real working space. Currently I work from a laptop on a cramped little desk. My arts and crafts gear is (dis)organized among various containers here and there and my work space is the cluttered dining table. I need a better solution.

How was 2012 for you? How are you celebrating New Year’s? What are your goals for 2013?

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

It’s been a while since I wrote you a letter, but I’ve moved and wanted to make sure you know that I’m not in Miami, FL anymore; I’m in Melbourne, Victoria. Yep, Australia, that’s right; that’s where the presents should be delivered.

Life in Australia is pretty nice. As you know from your travels, it’s a beautiful country. The food is good, people are relaxed, and Melbourne has a wonderful artsy culture. Australia has (almost) everything so I have a short wish list this year, Santa. You and your elves won’t even break a sweat. Here goes.

  1. Floo Powder and a map of the Floo Network. This will make visiting my family and friends back in Florida easy and inexpensive.
  2. Applicator tampons with high absorbency. In fact, if you could bring these to all Australian chemists, supermarkets, and general stores, that would be great.
  3. Cuban cuisine. Melbourne needs more Cubans in general, but I guess that would make you a people smuggler. Australia kinda frowns on that so let’s just stick to food.
  4. An additional room for this house. I know your elves are more into building toys than houses, but is it really all that different from building a dollhouse? I didn’t think so. I mean, some of Barbie’s dream houses are pretty impressive. And I could really use that spare room for a ritual, crafting, and office space. Please make sure it fits the original style of this 1920s California bungalow though; Theo can be very particular about design and decor.
  5. A car. Any ole thing will do. I haven’t given it much thought, but there’s the Nissan Micra Ti automatic with intelligent keyless entry, reverse parking sensors, front grille, fog lights, and climate control air-conditioning in Monaco Platinum. I’m not picky about the color though.
  6. The Han Solo in Carbonite business card case. I don’t actually have business cards, but I’d get some if I had this case.
  7. That big and fancy Canon digital camera that Theo wants. Is it kosher to ask for gifts on behalf of others or should I persuade him to write his own letter?
  8. A few squeaky balls for Sam. He’s a dog so he can’t write his own letter.

I’ve been good, Santa. Since my last letter twenty-something years ago, I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class, made it through college, stayed away from drugs and bad boys, developed a good work ethic, and am generally friendly and kind. I don’t think these are too much to ask for. Nothing you and your elves can’t handle.

I hope your trip round the world is a good one this year. Stay safe; there’s a lot of crazies out there.



5 of the Best Restaurants in Australia

Red Spice Road

Red Spice Road

This article was provided by The Expat Hub, the number one online stop for expatriates looking for advice, support and information.

For centuries nations like France and Italy have been getting all the glory when it comes to innovation in the kitchen and daring in the dining room, while countries like Australia have been typecast as producers of limited varieties of foods (shrimp on the barbie anyone?)

But one restaurant revolution later and Australia has well and truly made its mark on the culinary map.

In recent years Australia has developed a reputation as a nation of bold flavours and high quality produce and is recognised for developing its own Antipodean cuisine whilst incorporating culinary styles from across the globe.

Although the country boasts a huge amount of fantastic eateries for foodie expats to enjoy, this is our pick of five of the best restaurants Down Under!

Red Spice Road, Melbourne

Red Spice Road provides diners with an authentic South-East Asian dining experience. Customers are encouraged to eat communally, in the style of Asian familial and social gatherings. With shared dishes, a comfortable atmosphere and a casualness you don’t expect to come with fine dining, there’s a real sense of community about Red Spice. Although all the restaurants dishes are fresh, flavoursome and beautifully presented the big draw of Red Spice Road is the banquet menu. The huge array of dishes on offer draw from traditional Asian flavours and techniques but often feature an unusual twist, like the Burmese Split Pea Fritters with Spice Tamarind Dipping Sauce. Must try: Lychee Jam Doughnuts with Cinnamon Ice-Cream.

Quay, Sydney, New South Wales

The 3 Hat and 3 Star rated Quay restaurant boasts some of the most incredible views Sydney has to offer. Positioned in the dress circle of the harbour, Quay looks out over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. The head chef of this internationally acclaimed restaurant is culinary heavyweight Peter Gilmore. Thanks to Gilmore’s innovative exploration of nature and texture (and his use of rare ingredients) Quay scooped Number 29 on 2012’s World’s Best Restaurant list – making it the highest ranked Australian restaurant. For three consecutive years Quay has also been voted The Best Restaurant in Australasia. Must try: Hapuka poached in crème fraiche and served with Tasmanian pink flesh potatoes, tender almonds and scorched beet leaves.

Garagistes, Hobart

Although billed as a wine bar (and a damn good wine bar at that) Garagistes is also a restaurant which serves fantastic food. The menu changes daily to ensure the produce is at its freshest and that the dishes compliment the extensive selection of natural wines. Seasonal and locally foraged ingredients are always used and where possible every part of the cooking process (from smoking and curing to pickling) is done in house. The big emphasis of Garagistes is on communal dining with progressive meals and sharing dishes. As the menu changes so frequently it isn’t extensive (usually about ten savoury meals and two sweet) but the quality is superb and you’re guaranteed delicious, surprising taste sensations. Must try: Smoked wallaby tartar with native pepper, hazelnuts, cocoa nibs and chickweed.

Tetsuya’s, Sydney

Within a heritage-listed building Tetsuya’s dishes up plate after elegant plate of Japanese/Australian fusion cooking. In the kitchen the Japanese philosophy of natural, seasonal, flavours is combined with classical French technique to create really light and unique dishes. Tetsuya’s offers a ten-plate degustation menu which includes courses like sashimi of kingfish, salad of big eye tuna with daikon and braised oxtail with sea cucumber. To add to the experience the three main dining areas are filled with eclectic examples of fine art and ceramics and look out on to an exceptional Japanese garden. The restaurant also has an on-site test kitchen so experimentation and dish development is always ongoing. Must try: Yuzu, blood orange and black pepper sorbet.

Cumulus Inc.

Cumulus Inc.

Cumulus Inc., Melbourne

Cumulus is based in a turn-of-the century rag-trade building in Finders Lane – Melbourne’s famed fashion and art district. Since 2008 Cumulus has been providing locals with an inspiring place to interact as well as a place to get top of the range food for every meal of the day. Andrew McConnell is the man behind an exciting range of dishes including the unusual breakfast offering Shakshouka (baked eggs with shanklish and roasted peppers) and the decedent dinner dish wagyu bresaola with artichoke and truffle cream. Cumulus also has an extensive wine list, caters for private and corporate functions and has been listed in the Age Good Food Guide for three consecutive years. Must try: Saffron spiced cauliflower, golden raisins, pine nuts and curd.

Have you tried any of these restaurants? What are your favorite restaurants down under?